Mount Isa is a city in the Gulf Country region of Queensland, Australia. It came into existence because of the vast mineral deposits found in the area. Mount Isa Mines (MIM) is one of the most productive single mines in world history, based on combined production of lead, silver, copper and zinc.
With a population of 21,992 recorded at the 2011 census and 33,200 in the surrounding district, Mount Isa is the administrative, commercial and industrial centre for the state's vast north-western region. Although situated in an arid area, the artificial Lake Moondarra 19 kilometres (12 mi) north of the city on the Leichhardt River provides both drinking water and an area for watersports, birdwatching and recreation. Locals often refer to Mount Isa as "The Isa".
The land around the present day city of Mount Isa was home to the Kalkadoon aboriginal tribe. The Kalkadoon tribe led a subsistence lifestyle on this land that the white settlers looked at as nothing but poor grazing land, with the odd mineral deposit. As settlers and prospectors pressed further into their lands the Kalkadoon tribe members set out on one of Australia's most successful guerrilla wars in a fight for their lands. Their success continued until at Battle Mountain in 1884, with what some historians have called a rush of blood, the tribe attacked a fortified position in large numbers and suffered terrible losses. The weakened state of the tribe made their land more vulnerable to the settlers and soon much of the land was lost. Armed patrols chasing the surviving tribe members and poor grazing lands for the settlers made times hard in the area over the following decades.
It is said that a lone prospector, John Campbell Miles, stumbled upon one of the world's richest deposits of copper, silver and zinc during his 1923 expedition into the Northern Territory, but many people do not know that he was taken to the deposits by a young aboriginal man by the name of Kabalulumana (for whom an Indigenous person's hostel in Mt. Isa is named). When Miles inspected the yellow-black rocks in a nearby outcrop reminded him of the ore found in the Broken Hill mine that he had once worked at. Upon inspection these rocks were weighty and heavily mineralised. A sample sent away to the assayer in Cloncurry confirmed their value. Miles and four farmers staked out the first claims in the area. Taken with friend's stories of the Mount Ida gold mines in Western Australia, Miles decided upon Mount Isa as the name for his new claim.
Mount Isa Post Office opened on 1 August 1924.
A location for the town's hospital was chosen in 1929, with a small building completed the following year. In 1931, a larger structure was moved to the site from the closed mining town of Kuridala.
Attractions include the Hard Times Mine at "Outback at Isa" and The Mount Isa Rodeo and Mardi Gras (held on the same weekend) has given Mount Isa the title of "Rodeo Capital of Australia". The occasion may well triple the city's population in these few days. A memorial has been made especially for the Rodeo, down Rodeo Drive; the sidewalks have special memorials embedded in the cement.
The burial place of John Campbell Miles, the founder of Mount Isa, on the corner of Rodeo Drive and Miles Street. His ashes are buried underneath a large statue where each panel represents a significant part of Mount Isa. Miles' ashes used to be watched over by a large clock where the statue now stands.
The World War II-era Mount Isa Underground Hospital is an historical building that has been registered on the Register of the National Estate and the Queensland Heritage Register. An air-raid shelter which could function as a hospital was a precautionary measure taken after Darwin was bombed in 1942. Local miners excavated the site which remains today as the only underground health facility in Queensland which was built during World War II.
The Xstrata Mount Isa Lake Moondarra Fishing Classic is held annually, and after 2011 will also be followed by a Fishing, Camping and 4x4 Expo. The Fishing classic is the richest fresh water fishing event in Queensland. Catching the tagged Barramundi fetches the greatest prize money.